This week, three prominent transportation stakeholders told the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the country’s transportation network is desperately in need of long-term federal funding assurances.
According to a report from Transport Topics, Carlos Braceras, AASHTO president and Utah DOT executive director, emphasized that Congress needs to begin work on reauthorizing the FAST Act in order to smoothly transition to the next long-term funding bill. Bob Lanham, vice president of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, pointed out the need for a broad-based infrastructure plan, saying that funding uncertainties and short-term extensions have led to setbacks like project delays and higher costs. And James Corless, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, noted the limitations with current federal infrastructure funding sources like the gas tax, and suggested the adoption of a customized vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) fee as a possible alternative.
The leadership of the Environment and Public Works Committee agreed with stakeholders’ call to action. Committee members debated VMT fees, highlighted the interest from cities and urban regions in public-private partnerships, emphasized a need to invest further in public transit systems and examined possible approaches for further streamlining federal environmental regulations.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, is one of the few members of Congress to suggest raising the Clinton-era 24.4-cents-per-gallon diesel tax and the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax. Carper expressed he was encouraged by a bipartisan consensus on the need for infrastructure investment, and believes the incoming Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate could achieve a long-term infrastructure bill. The incoming chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), has expressed that he shares this sentiment.